When buying a book or a DVD, it becomes your property in full.

I have seen some people argue that when you buy a book or DVD, you don’t actually own it; that you would somehow pay money to license a set of rights that include the right to sit down and enjoy its entertainment, but would not include the right to copy it. This is factually and legally wrong. When you buy media, you buy the whole media. It becomes your property in full, including everything encoded onto it.

So if it’s your property, why can’t you copy it freely? That’s because another law – the copyright monopoly – steps in and explicitly takes away those rights from you in regards to your own property. Specifically, the U.S. law (which will have to serve as example again) lists six specific actions that people may not take on their own property, but that are reserved for the holder of the copyright monopoly: see [USC Section 17, chapter 1, para 106]

Very, very clear. Six specific actions in the law that are reserved for the holder of the copyright monopoly, regardless of whose property it is.

But we observe here, going back to the original erroneous assertion, that if you were only sold a limited set of rights that did not include copying when buying a book or a DVD, the above piece of law would be wholly unnecessary. It wouldn’t make sense at all. Therefore, the conclusion is trivial that the assertion is wrong to begin with.

When you buy a book, a DVD, or something similar, you obtain full property rights to it, including the right to produce as many copies as you wish in any way you like. But then, another law steps in – the law text quoted above – and takes away those six rights from you, the property owner.

This is an important distinction, as these are rights that are perfectly normal for property, and the copyright monopoly creates an exception to your normal property rights.

  • Rick Falkvinge